The Omnipotence of God.

Position 1.—God is, in the most unlimited and absolute sense of the word, Almighty. “Behold Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee” (Jer. 32:17). “With God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:26). The schoolmen, very properly, distinguish the omnipotence of God into absolute and actual: by the former, God might do many things which He does not; by the latter, He actually does whatever He will. For instance, God might, by virtue of His absolute power, have made more worlds than He has. He might have eternally saved every individual of mankind, without reprobating any; on the other hand, He might, and that with the strictest justice, have condemned all men and saved none. He could, had it been His pleasure, have prevented the fall of angels and men, and thereby have hindered sin from having footing in and among His creatures. By virtue of His actual power He made the universe; executes the whole counsel of His will, both in heaven and earth; governs and influences both men and things, according to His own pleasure; fixes the bounds which they shall not pass, and, in a word, worketh all in all (Isa. 45:7; Amos 3:6; John 5:17; Acts 17:26; 1 Cor. 12:6).

Position 2.—Hence it follows that, since all things are subject to the Divine control, God not only works efficaciously on His elect, in order that they may will and do that which is pleasing in His sight, but does, likewise, frequently and powerfully suffer the wicked to fill up the measure of their iniquities by committing fresh sins. Nay, He sometimes, but for wise and gracious ends, permits His own people to transgress, for He has the hearts and wills of all men in His own hand, and inclines them to good or delivers them up to evil, as He sees fit, yet without being the author of sin, as Luther, Bucer, Augustine, and others have piously and Scripturally taught.

This position consists of two parts:

(1) That God efficaciously operates on the hearts of His elect, and is thereby the sole Author of all the good they do. (See Eph. 1:20; Phil. 2:13; 1 Thess. 2:13; Heb. 13:21.) St. Augustine[1] takes up no fewer than nineteen chapters in proving that whatever good is in men, and whatever good they are enabled to do, is solely and entirely of God, who, says he, “works in holy persons all their good desires, their pious thoughts, and their righteous actions; and yet these holy persons, though thus wrought upon by God, will and do all these things freely, for it is He who rectifies their wills, which, being originally evil, are made good by Him, and which wills, after He hath set them right and made them good, He directs to good actions and to eternal life, wherein He does not force their wills, but makes them willing.”

(2) That God often lets the wicked go on to more ungodliness, which He does (a) negatively by withholding that grace which alone can restrain them from evil; (b) remotely, by the providential concourse and mediation of second causes, which second causes, meeting and acting in concert with the corruption of the reprobate’s unregenerate nature, produce sinful effects; (c) judicially, or in a way of judgment. “The King’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of waters; He turneth it whithersoever He will” (Prov. 21:1); and if the King’s heart, why not the hearts of all men? “Out of the mouth of the Most High proceedeth not evil and good? ”(Lam. 3:38). Hence we find that the Lord bid Shimei curse David (2 Sam. 16:10); that He moved David himself to number the people (compare 1 Chron. 21:1 with 2 Sam. 24:1); stirred up Joseph’s brethren to sell him into Egypt (Genesis 50:20); positively and immediately hardened the heart of Pharaoh (Exod. 4:21); delivered up David’s wives to be defiled by Absalom (2 Sam. 12:11; 16:22); sent a lying spirit to deceive Ahab (1 Kings 22:20-23), and mingled a perverse spirit in the midst of Egypt, that is, made that nation perverse, obdurate and stiff-necked (Isa. 19:14). To cite other instances would be almost endless, and after these, quite unnecessary, all being summed up in that express passage, “I make peace and create evil; I the Lord do all these things” (Isa. 14:7). See farther, 1 Sam. 16:14; Psalm 105:25; Jer. 13:12,13; Acts 2:23, 4:28; Rom. 11:8; 2 Thess. 2:11, every one of which implies more[2] than a bare permission of sin. Bucer asserts this, not only in the place referred to below, but continually throughout his works, particularly on Matt. 4:2, where this is the sense of his comments on that petition, “Lead us not into temptation”: “It is abundantly evident, from most express testimonies of Scripture, that God, occasionally in the course of His providence, puts both elect and reprobate persons into circumstances of temptation, by which temptation are meant not only those trials that are of an outward, afflictive nature, but those also that are inward and spiritual, even such as shall cause the persons so tempted actually to turn aside from the path of duty, to commit sin, and involve both themselves and others in evil. Hence we find the elect complaining, ‘O Lord, why hast Thou made us to err from Thy ways, and hardened our hearts from Thy fear?’ (Isaiah 63:17). But there is also a kind of temptation, which is peculiar to the non-elect, whereby God, in a way of just judgment, makes them totally blind and obdurate, inasmuch as they are vessels of wrath fitted to destruction.” (See also his exposition of Rom. 9)

Luther[3] reasons to the very same effect; some of his words are these: “It may seem absurd to human wisdom that God should harden, blind and deliver up some men to a reprobate sense—that He should first deliver them over to evil, and then condemn them for that evil—but the believing spiritual man sees no absurdity at all in this, knowing that God would be never a whit less good, even though He should destroy all men.” And again, “God worketh all things in all men, even wickedness in the wicked, for this is one branch of His own omnipotence.” He very properly explains how God may be said to harden men, etc., and yet not be the author of their sin. “It is not to be understood,” says he, “as if God found men good, wise and tractable, and then made them wicked, foolish and obdurate; but God, finding them depraved, judicially and powerfully excites them just as they are (unless it is His will to regenerate any of them), and, by thus exciting them, they become more blind and obstinate than they were before.” (See this whole subject debated at large in the places last referred to.)

[1] De Grat. and lib. Arb. ac. 1. usque ad c. 20.
[2] Vid. Augustin. de Grat. and lib. Arbitr. c. 20 and 21, and Bucer in Rom. 1 Beet. 7.
[3] De Serv. Aib. c. 8 and 146 and 147, usq. ad c. 165.


Comments are closed.

Copyright © 2019, The Association of Historic Baptists